Denafrips Terminator R2R Multibit, ultimate pcm redbook converter??

Maybe the ultimate PCM (RedBook) converter? Sure looks the goods.

Cheers George
The Circuit Board is a cheap production version.

I'm guessing all those capacitors and resistors turns some people on enough to warrant a purchase. Personally I would stay away from these sort of companies till they have properly estabilished them self with proven products.

For all we know it could be the Terminator killing audiophiles and robbing their money!
No I haven't, but if you search those that have, say it's the best thing since sliced bread!

Cheers George
I am actually very interested in the Venus, one step down from the Terminator. Essentially my next dac will be a R-2R dac and I'm considering the Holo Audio Kitsune Edition, Denafrips Venus or the highest end Soekris. 
@dragon_vibe , that's a machine manufactured R-2R chipset, I wouldn't expect point to point or hand assembled dac of this kind (the R-2R circuitry). That'd be sort of ridiculous, impossible even.
Tried the Denafrips Ares R2R DAC and for its asking price it was very good.  The only major setback was the 1mm LED indicators and the dark gray on black silkscreening.  

Good Listening

Are these R-2R design DACs optimized for 16/44.1 Redbook PCM or they will perform equally well for other types of content in PCM format, like FLAC content streamed from Tidal, etc., at higher rates, e.g., MQA, say via something like a Bluesound Node2 or other popular streaming gear?
is there something inherently special about R2R?
Yes there is, it does 16/44  24/96 Redbook pcm bit perfect,, when implemented right, better than any dsd/sacd delta sigma can hope to, which can only give a facsimile of it.

MoJo Music:
" When a PCM file is played on a DSD or Bit Stream Delta Sigma converter, the DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit Delta Sigma DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."

Cheers George

R2R requires a ladder of very highly matched resistors as each 16 or 24 bit data point (at whatever the sample rate) is decoded to a discrete voltage from the ladder.

The advantage is no conversion of the digital data.

The disadvantage is that digital converters are mathematically extremely accurate and can achieve better performance if done properly with proper dithering to eliminate quantization error.

It is like DSP done with analog filters versus doing the filtering in the digital domain. Cheaper and greater accuracy can be achieved in the digital domain.

The problem of R2R is maintaining accuracy of a super accurate R2R ladder as resistors will drift with temperature and the tolerances required are extremely tight to achieve desired performance. Generally you get more THD and noise with R2R vs modern Delta Digma.

That said - a lot of Delta Sigma chips were used incorrectly by many manufacturers that did not understand how to implement conversion accurately - so many Delta Sigma chips - especially the early Sony ones did not sound good and had what people called "digital glare".

Delta Sigma chips - had what people called "digital glare".
I wouldn’t say that, if anything TOO smooth and lacking impact, rhythm and drive, I call it the bounce factor.
They all have this signature to me, when trying to convert Redbook (pcm) 16/44 24/96 or DXD, regardless of who makes them.
As for dsd or sacd they may be good with these, but I don’t listen to those formats.

Cheers George
What would make this the "ultimate" PCM DAC?

Plenty of other high-end  ladder DACs. The unknown reviewer is hardly impartial, as he bought the DAC unheard so of course his expectation bias is quite high.

Not to say it doesn't look interesting.
A comparison with other DACs would be in order to provide readers with a baseline for buying decisions.
regardless, as an R2R discrete dac, to take a shot ’get into it’ and see what is going on, it is probably the only way one can do this today.

No other R2R discrete dac exists at this price point today, that I am ware of. At least with this level of implementation.

Best quality, that’s up to the buyer to discern. It’s an easy choice when it comes to the idea of trying to find out what is going on with the R2R vs ’delta sigma’ question. Then, if one finds it to be of good potential, consider looking at the $15-20k+ R2R discrete dacs that are out there.

This one can probably be sold at it’s buy price, or at extremely little loss, at such point.

So, as a personal question to one’s self goes, it’s a no brainer.

Shardorne’s points are pretty well all valid, but we digress in the idea of what is best. Well implemented delta-sigma, or well implemented R2R.

How the resistive ladder is executed is critical to R2R dacs. The ’Total Dac’ and the MSB dacs cost what they do, partially for those very reasons.

Each type of dac the delta-sigma or the R2R, has their Achilles heel. I can’t listen to or consider Delta-sigma when I’m trying for ’best’. Shardorne seems to feel otherwise.

Most reviewers and buyers seem to feel the best implemented R2R ladder and similar designed dacs (specifically not delta-sigma) are the pinnacle of digital audio.

Point is, that a 0.01% accuracy set of resistors for the ladder is far from perfect enough to get to those pinnacles, and can barely make it there for redbook 16/44-48. But what tricks it may do for redbook 16/44, those may be more than good enough for most people to discern whether the tricks that ladder/R2R dacs do for music, this thing ’heard’ when one tries such a dac.... may convince one to go onward and upward in the world of R2R dacs.

Think of it as a valid ’test’, to take a look-see and dip into that world.

R2R dacs are just barely coming back into the digital fold ...from the desert created when delta-sigma became the big deal, due to costs. discrete Dacs are just barely coming back into being. Or, coming into being for the first time, depending on your view of the history of dacs.

This is the lowest priced discrete ladder dac with high bit rate ability--- that exists on the planet right now. I don’t expect the price to ever get any lower.

economies of scale won’t drop the price down.

Quality demands will force the price UP.
Demand will force the price UP.
Rising costs will force the price UP.
Labour and such in the far east will force the price UP.
Coming decay of the us dollar hegemony will push the price UP.
Success for this company will push the price UP.
And a few other UP’s.

And there’s nary a single DOWN force on the price in sight -or on the crystal ball of the future.

I hope you are getting my point.
so in general terms, is the  sound difference between delta sigmas and R2R  have to do with one sounding digital (glare) and one sounding more smooth?

It depends on the particular DACs you are comparing but let’s say early Delta Sigma implementations had a reputation for hashy highs or digital glare. Recent implementations like the Benchmark series of DACs sound very clean articulate and neutral. They do not suffer from lack of rhythm or bounce (quite dynamic and punchy) but they are thinner or leaner sounding (neutral is probably a good description) than a DAC with a slightly more euphonic output (tube or R2R).

As I mentioned on another thread - if you 100% love the sound of your speakers then a neutral DAC will work. If you don’t 100% like your speakers then some slight coloration in the source may be beneficial holistically.
euphonic (tube or R2R)

These really should not be grouped together, ever!
As they are nothing alike.
If anything I would class R2R as being more like this,
than soft euphonic tube.

Cheers George
I agree with George. I was letting shadonre wear me down a bit via repetition..., but I have to say that R2R is correct and delta sigma screeches, it is not lean and truthful, and it is not neutral. It is grungy and dirty, it adds noise, and it is in error.

Everyone knows that, except those who have to build dacs and CD decks and dvd/sacd/blu-ray decks--- with modern delta-sigma dacs.

They can never talk about this simple truth. They can only work with what they’ve got.

Most of the time it’s fine, it’s great, in fact -- in the best examples.

But it is not the pinnacle. The pinnacle is owned by R2R dacs.

that subtle screech, noise and tonal coloration ’lie’ is also happening at the input of a system (with the delta sigma dac designs) and it is skewing the entire audiophile enterprise and overall expectations in balance and other choices... It is subtle, but it is definitely there, as issues go.

People who listen to a lot of analog source and analog gear, tend to get this as an understanding.

People brought up on pure digital...many times don’t even know it exists as subtle but important flaw in their given firmament.

That is what the cost savings of delta-sigma dacs has done to the audio world.

It is also, if one goes through the logic, part of what is causing less audio people to appear ’out there’. It’s not just all the other forces, it is also the inherent flaws and compromises in modern digital signal reproduction. And one can’t talk about the ability to get ’good sound’ being more universal than ever before.

Ubiquity does not equate with quality that is complementary to how the ear works at it’s most deep and human levels. (with regard to attracting people to the idea of quality sound reproduction in their homes)

We're just hoping that one day the headphone crowd finally realizes that the same money can bring the same quality or a room sized reproduction system.
"This is the lowest priced discrete ladder dac with high bit rate ability--- that exists on the planet right now. I don’t expect the price to ever get any lower".
  The Terminator is a dac R2R with four counters of 500 high-precision 0.005% laser-cut resistors, with a nominal resolution of 26bit, capable of reproducing both PCM format up to 384khz and DSD up to 11.2Mhz (DSD256) in native mode.

Holo Audio Kitsune edition..($2499)...

Soekris Engineering DAC 1541..($1190)...
@jaybe , the T+A dac isn't R2R, it uses Burr-Brown dac chips, it's a delta sigma dac.

Good article on NOS vs OS (all delta-sigma dacs oversample):

the Soekris 1541 should be badass.


the best Machines for Red Book is Ultra Analog/ PCM 63 Dacs from the 90th.
Sonic Frontiers /Spectral/Theta /Monarchy...etc sounds really good to my Ears.

Best Regards,
P..S The Soekris is real good for the Money...
So the unknown question is how good is the Terminator compared to everything else?  Not enough people have it yet, but from reading Headfi, there are some people with it on the way.  The lower end Denafrip is getting high praise though, so it would stand to reason the Terminator is pretty good based on how good the lower end model performs
Ultra Analog/  PCM 63 Dacs

Ther are also R2R Multibit dacs.

Cheers George
I wonder if somebody has a list of the different R2R multibit dacs and maybe average price and or links.



Here in this Thread are Many Dacs listed...
Yes..i love this Chips combinated with a Tube Output stage.
Best Regards,

Had a couple of email exchanges with Soren Kristensen (aka Seokris) and he’s taking preorders for dac1541 or dac1421 (without balanced output). I thought for $825 it would be a great deal so my order is in. The 1541 version with balanced output is about $425 more and is almost ready to ship but 1421 might take another month or two. I’m in no rush and the closer to Christmas the better. They might even have a US distributer by then.

Note to self: Stop reading Audiogon before I go completely broke.

@kalali, but we managed to not let you go broke, if typical Audiogon wisdom prevailed you'd be shelling out for a TotalDac. My dilemma is to whether order the 1541 now, or wait a bit and order the Denafrips Venus...

To be honest, this is the first time I've ever considered buying a piece of gear sight unseen. The main reason I felt somewhat comfortable with the Soekris brand is their extensive experience in design and manufacturing of some highly sophisticated computer and networking equipment. I considered the lower end Denafrip Ares but the volume control - supposedly well implemented, in Soekris gave me a justification to repurpose the funding I had set aside for a (tube) preamp to this piece. I may change my mind depending on how well I can stomach the wait.

Note to self: Stop reading Audiogon before I go completely broke.
The problem being is our inner audio monkey keeps getting touched in a way that makes it happy, so.....

Right in the core reptilian brain area where sex and addictions and neural re-wiring takes place.

And the audio argument is born. As big as an angry and excitable house built out of flaming dynamite.

Note to self: Stop reading Audiogon before I go completely broke.

Don't worry we will help you spend your money.

The 1541 or 1421 look darn good for the money.

I'm on the hunt for a good R2R dac on a budget for a friend of mine, don't know what we will end up.
I'm kinda overwhelmed with all the choices out there.

Best of luck to you,


teo, well said. Its funny how we try to justify these seemingly unnecessary purchases for ourselves and for our significant others. We substitute one vice for the other. My argument is I have no other vice, except maybe good Bourbon and my wife’s argument is she hates jewelry unlike many of her friends but likes exotic orchids. My saving grace is she’s also a musician/vocalist and appreciates good sound. That was actually my pitch for getting a tube preamp but I "re-convinced" her that her CDs will sound better with a better DAC. And the game goes on...

I’m guessing she’ll ’get’ the ladder dac, right from the first note.

Sometimes we can't define a thing... but we know what it is when we hear it.
I would REALLY like to hear comments (if not the dacs themselves) about the Holo Audio Spring, Kitsune edition vs the  Soekris 1541. Since the 1541 is just coming out it will be a while but both these dacs intrigue me. There are reviews out there on the Kitsune so if anyone pulls the trigger on the Soekris, please post comments here.
I can only speak for the Holo as I listened to it at the L A Audio Show. It was in the headphone lobby area and was fronted by the outstanding Headamp GS-K Mk ll. I listened through the Hifiman HE1000 V2, Audeze LCD-4 and Focal Utopia headphones (The Hifiman won ears down) so from source to headphone everything was top notch, to say the least. 

All the while I listened (about 30 minutes) the Holo output stayed steady at 44.1 and it was there and then that I decided I could easily live with a high end headphone set up, if space were a consideration or if I had more disposable income. It was easily the best sound at the show and I'm convinced that the Holo was largely responsible for the purity and quality of the sound. Nothing was amiss.

Thanks to that experience and this thread, I'm considering getting the Holo and keeping my Marantz SACD player to use as a transport. This is really a tough decision as I don't need to go down that rabbit hole again.

All the best,


Just because there are many bad sounding (screeching as you put it) Delta Sigma DACs does not mean that none of them are any good.

The latest Delta-sigmas use multiple 1 bit converters to achieve the same as a 6 bit R2R DAC. You can understand how a ladder DAC takes output from a resistor network where a small number of resistors are exact multiples of each other (1x,2x, 4x, 8x etc). Well you can also build a network from the SAME 1x resistor but simply by using a huge number of them. This is in effect what new Sabre Delta Sigma DACs do - 64 x 1 bit DACs - and by summing them to various degrees you get up to 6 bits.

So the line between R2R and Delta Sigma is blurred when you realize that the latest Delta Sigma chips are behaving much like an R2R DAC (but only a 6 bit one). The end result is that the latest Delta Sigma DACs are extremely linear (benefit of 1 bit) and yet they also do not need to upsample nearly as much as older generation pure 1 bit DACs (without a 64 array).

Of course an R2R DAC can be designed to be NOS however this is at the expense of linearity (THD) performance.

Since multibit DACs have great low noise but poor linearity and the 1 bit DACs have excellent linearity but high noise NEITHER are purely the best approach - the 6 bit DAC with some oversampling is currently achieving the best performance.

More explanation here of how one designer has approached the challenge of noise and linearity.

Furthermore, as this manufacturer states 90% of the circuitry and the major part of DAC performance is all in the ANALOG design (so according to manufacturer much of the performance is NOT even related to Multibit R2R NOS vs Delta-Sigma digital conversions)

Conclusion (if you buy this line of reasoning): It is far far more important how well the DAC is designed and built than the specific digital conversion chip employed (1704, 9018 etc)!!!!!!!

Excellent sounding DACs do not ALL have to use the same exact methodology and there is more than one way to skin a cat.

You also need to mention the massive amount of noise a Delta Sigma has compared to a Mulitibit, that it needs to get rid of. Even the 6 bit hybrid Delta Sigmas.

Sorry just noticed you did.

Furthermore, as this manufacturer states 90% of the circuitry and the major part of DAC performance is all in the ANALOG design (so according to manufacturer much of the performance is NOT even related to Multibit R2R NOS vs Delta-Sigma digital conversions)

Not as far as MoJo Music thinks when doing Redbook on both.
" When a PCM file is played on a DSD or Bit Stream Delta Sigma converter, the DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."  

Cheers George
I have purchased and built 2 Dacs from    both of these Dacs are very good.  I am currently using a ES9018K2M Dac, the only thing that I have compared to this Dac head to head is a Wadia 121, but it isn't close, the DIY Dac is noticeably better.   They offer 4 or 5 models of R2R dacs with decent parts quality and FIFO reclocking... I may fold and try one of these,  It looks like that the kit, a case and power supply may me around $300 or so.  I haven't added it up,  but it won't be crazy and right now, I'm happy with the quality... I need to research the chips that they use...They do have a 1704 Dac, but the Chip is not included,  The 1702 Dac does include the Dac chip as well as the as well as the AD1856,  AD1862, AD1865 and TDA 1540.  


The 1704 is impossible to find anymore TI discontinued it years ago.  There are many fakes around but have been able to find a few genuine in the UK.  Use extreme caution if sourcing BB1704.

Best of Luck

Hi Peter,   thanks for the Advice, I saw a pair of them about 6 or 8 months ago.... What about any of the other R2R DAC chips  that I listed,  are you familiar with any of those.  Have you played with Manufacturing a DAC?  Just curious to get your thoughts. 

The 1704. There are many fakes around but have been able to find a few genuine in the UK. Use extreme caution if sourcing BB1704.
I think this could be a bit of a rumour, as there is nothing cheaper that would work with the same pinout as it, that it can sub’ed for.

Cheers George
For those of you with the DIY knowledge and skills, I noticed a discrete R-2R DIY model on the Soekris site - model dam1021, priced at 179 Euros. I don't quite understand all the technical details but it seems like it is technically comparable to their ~$800+ product that I have pre-ordered. Sounds like a great deal for someone with the right skills.... 
@kalali   Thanks,  this DIY Soekris came out in 2015... this is the problem piece that all the fuss is about.  It may be good,  but I think I'd rather steer away. 
Hello folks . 
I saw Denafrips mentioned on this thread, so I figure that I would chime in. 
Prior to owning a Denafrips Ares, I owned the Schiit bifrost 4490 which was an upgrade from the first gen of bifrost. ( I did not care much for the 4490, I felt the sound clinical and boring ( digital_esque ).
 The Ares was a huge departure in sound. Immediately noticeable was the absence of digital glare and a sense of musicality. Very very good for the $. I believe the Ares operates in OS mode only . ( Pontus, Venus , and Terminator has option for NOS )
I got really curious as to what the level of Denafrips had to offer. 

Whitin a month I ordered the Pontus. 
The pontus is a very serious dac, it has the Ares had to offer, except that,the Pontus gives you more of everything. Bigger soundstage, better presence, more impact, it's easier to get lost in the music.

I even got more curious and I said what heck, if the Pontus is that good, what will the Terminator sounds like. 
Well, I got me a Terminator, and it's a solid DAC, very refined and composed. Natural sound. 
I'm glad I found Denafrips and at that price.
Solid performer. 
Here to stay for a long long time.

ps. Some say that the Terminator was favored over dac in the $10-15K range . YMMV 

Guy, great story. Unlike you, I just when right to the top and bought the Terminator blindly.  I read a bunch of reviews on the Ares which got me thinking but the hardware design is what sold me. No wires and the use of high end components.  If this DAC was made in Europe or in the US.  The labor cost alone would probably have doubled the price.  

The performance is excellent.  No digital glare, it was like a veil was lifted.  The speed, dynamics is excellent.  Instrument separation is very good, very musical and natural.  I agree with you, I'm also happy I found Denafrips.  I plan to keep this one for a very long time.  
There's also a Facebook group:
denafrips audiophile owners .
its for members and the curious with questions about Denafrips.
The distributor,Alvin Chee is also in the group. Very nice guy. Ill answer any questions you may have or help with troubleshoot.